A motorbike-loving group of psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses has hit the highways to raise awareness of mental health issues in the remotest parts of Australia.
Covering 16,000 kilometres in six weeks, it is their most ambitious charity ride yet, in an annual event that started a decade ago.
Backed by foundation sponsor Ramsay Health Care Australia, the team – known as ‘Psychs on Bikes’ – will visit remote properties and cattle stations from western Queensland to the Northern Territory, Western Australia to South Australia, finishing up through Victoria and New South Wales.
Travelling in a convoy of dozens of motorcycles, they will offer free health checks in the hope of starting conversations about mental health and preventing the four silent killers: hypertension, diabetes, depression and alcoholism.
“Our motorcycles are great conversation-starters because people can be quite apprehensive about talking to a psychologist or psychiatrist,” said ‘Psychs on Bikes’ founder Dr Joe Dunn, Medical Superintendent at Ramsay’s Northside Group Cremorne Clinic in Sydney.
“We can sit them down in a non-threatening environment and very often once we get them chatting, we can’t shut them up.”
While there is a strong sense of community out in the bush, Dr Dunn said, the downside is the lack of privacy.
“It’s boom or bust out there and it’s a hard life, but many have that resignation and stoicism where they don’t make a fuss of it.
“Unfortunately depression and suicide rates are much higher in rural areas than urban ones, so we want to raise awareness and get them thinking about ‘what is anxiety’ or ‘how much alcohol is too much,” he said.
Australia’s largest private healthcare provider has been involved with the project since 2011, and is committed to continuing as part of the company's new ‘Ramsay Cares’ global sustainability strategy, which launched in late 2020 and recognises the important role it plays in creating stronger communities and healthier people.
“The Psychs on Bikes team absolutely love going on this adventure, we love the sense of giving back to our community, and I’m so grateful to Ramsay Health Care for making it possible,” Dr Dunn said.